Disneyland and LA

Me DH and DS 14 are planning on going to Disneyland for the first time this summer. DS will only go if we take a side trip i LA. We are flying from Boston. Would prefer not to rent a car. Any and all suggestions would be appreciated. Hotels? Airlines? Transportation? etc.

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This may not be very helpful, but what is there to do in LA? I remember being very disappointed when I visited, albeit twenty or more years ago. I guess there’s Hollywood, but that’s a lot less exciting than you think. After Universal Studios and Disneyland I’m done.

It’s a more complicated trip, but a side visit to San Francisco would have a lot more content, it seems to me.

Paradise Pier Hotel is the least expensive of the Disney Hotels. We really liked it (but it’s still pretty pricey). Unfortunately, I would still suggest you rent a car. I find it much better than public transportation in LA. You can get a nice hotel with parking in Santa Monica where the beach and pier are nice and walking around is cool too. You can walk on the beach all the way down to Venice which is awesome (maybe avoid after dark if you get uncomfortable in this kind of place; check it out first on the web). Queen Mary and aquarium in Long Beach are cool, as are the LaBrea tar pits. Lake Hollywood Park is my favorite view point. And of course Universal…


^^What @profmatt said^^

Hollywood is drab, dingy, dirty & then LA isn’t too much better, and the traffic is nuts. You can Uber/Lyft from Anaheim but it isn’t cost effective vs. renting a car.

If LA is non-negotiable then I have heard that the WB studios tour is a good one to do. And if interested in Universal it might be better to get a hotel for a night in the LA area before or after Disney.

I also agree that San Fran is a much more enjoyable destination with tons more to see but it’s far away.

Closer is San Diego which I find as enjoyable as San Fran.


“Side trip to LA” is a very broad statement. Although “officially” in Orange County, for all practical purposes DLR is in the “greater LA” sprawl. Boston (which happens to one of my favorite cities in the country) is a walkers paradise; most of the things a visitor would want to see is within walking distance (e.g. you can do the entire Freedom trail from the Commons to Bunker Hill in a day with time left over at the end. No so with LA.

What does he want to see in LA? It’s really just a city - a very large one. Downtown is really not that much different than downtown Boston - but without the history and beauty. There’s “Hollywood”, but there really isn’t much to see other than the Chinese Theater and the stars in the sidewalk. The chances of "running into’ a movie or TV star are slim to none.

Of course there are other parks - Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal, and Magic Mountain (Six Flags) - in the “greater LA area” that are worth visiting. But in the summer, these (along with DLR) will be very crowded. You might be able to attend a live taping of a TV show, but that will take a lot of research to find out what is taping and when. You could head out to the coast and check out the beach towns, but if you’ve been to Cape Cod, you’ll be disappointed.

But I can’t imagine doing any of these without a car (or a LOT of long haul Ubers). Each one would be a full or "long half’ day excursion, so you couldn’t really combine them. If you were staying in one of the myriad of hotels near DLR, here are some approximate driving times to other locations (note that these are based on memories from 10 or more years ago, so I may be a bit off):

Knott’s - 15-20 min
Hollywood/Universal - 30-40 min
Magic mountain 60-90 min
Beaches 45-60 min

Of course, this is LA, so one accident can bring 6 lanes of highway traffic to a crawl and add who knows how much time to the trip.

San Diego is about a 2 hour drive south, and quite honestly, I think it has a lot more to offer than LA; it has the Zoo and Safari Park (both considered amongst the best in the country), Sea World, Balboa Park which has a half dozen very good museums, “classic” Southern CA beaches (much nicer than the LA area beaches, in my opinion), a great shopping/dining/entertainment quarter downtown - right next to the ballpark where the Padres play. But again, it’s CA, so you pretty much need a car…

If you can fly into the Orange County (John Wayne) airport, it is MUCH better for DLR. LAX is a nightmare as far as getting to and from it is concerned. There is no DLR equivalent of the DME, so you’re on your own to use a car service, Uber - or rent a car. As a heads up, the drive from LAX to DLR can easily be 60 min or more due to traffic; from Orange County half that or less.

The DLR hotels are all “deluxe” and are in the $400-700/night range. You can find a very nice non-Disney hotel for less than half that - and it might actually be closer to the park gates. It’s been too long for me to give current reviews of off-site Anaheim hotels, so I’ll leave that to others.

That’s probably enough of my rambling for now. If you have more specific questions, I try to answer them…


On the other hand, my family drove from NY to SoCal this past summer and spent three days doing non-Disney stuff and sincerely enjoyed ourselves.

We had an AirBnB and our own van. Traffic was hard at times, but in the end, we managed.

Here are a few blog links…

Aquarium of Pacific and Mother’s Beach
Hollywood Blvd. and Santa Monica Pier
Father’s Day

The only other thing that I would consider adding to the list of things mentioned here is that there is a re-creation of both Walt’s barn and the rail loop of Carolwood Pacific Railway up in Griffith Park (which is also home to the observatory and the iconic photo spot for the Hollywood Sign). And by re-creation I mean I understand that the barn itself was moved, and that the loop was originally made from Walt’s own tracking.

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That’s on the list for my next trip. :heart:

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We fly from Boston to LAX frequently as we have family in Orange County. SNA is definitely the preferred airport, but nonstop flights are always much cheaper flying to LAX. I believe our flights last July were a little over $400pp roundtrip including bags, which we consider a good rate for nonstop flights at decent times. We also always rent a car and find there to be a lot more availability at LAX because it’s that much bigger. We’ve flown into LGB many times, too (another smaller airport) because JetBlue used to have a lot of nonstop flights from Logan, but they now seem to all be red-eyes.

This past summer my friend came with us who had never been to CA before and wanted to see as much as possible, so over 7 days we did DL, DCA, San Diego Zoo, Hollywood/Rodeo Drive/The Grove, Santa Monica Pier, and Laguna Beach from our hotel in Anaheim (along with visiting family). It was a decent amount of driving, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a rental car.

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If you do LA, I would focus on fun meals in different locations to seethe different areas of LA. Pick a centrally located hotel (not downtown LA bc gauranteed you wont spend time there) once you pick places you want to visit and we used Uber everywhere. We went to a taping of The Conan Obrian show (try finding tix to Ellen if you plan early enough!) a tour of WB studios, Universal Studios park was fun too.

**Im assuming a different hotell for Disney than your side trip to LA. Or are you wanting one hotel the whole trip?

So much good info here!
Just wanted to add my experience on some of these drive times that we’ve done in the last 1-2 years:

This has been our experience in the dead of night with no traffic. With traffic it can be an hour & as stated further down in bswan’s response, coming back towards Orange County from LA can be upwards of 60 min (my husband has been caught in dead-stop traffic that took him 2 1/2 hrs to return to Orange County from Hollywood).

Huntington & Newport are the closest & I don’t remember being in the car longer than 30-45 min, but it’s possible we just caught really good traffic since we’ve just done them the one time each.

And then lastly:

There isn’t a FREE equivalent, but Disney does have a coach bus at LAX that you can pay to board for transportation to/from the airport. The hours are limited (something like 9am-6pm) and I have heard (more than 1) reports of the coach never showing up when there are people who had reserved & paid for it, resulting in a long & arduous amount of back & forth with Disney to figure it out ending in a Super Shuttle instead. I have heard reports of it working just fine for others, but those 2 experiences I’ve heard about with its lack of reliability make me hesitant to ever consider it, but it does exist.

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Personally I think a side trip to San Diego would be much more fun and worth it. There’s cool historical stuff, beautiful beaches, an amazing zoo / animal park, etc. We also did a side trip of whale watching in Dana Point. Unless you’re into a giant city with endless traffic, I would go south instead of north.

You could even fly into San Diego and rent a car from there… the airport is great. So not really what you asked, but that’s my two cents!


I was including Venice in my “beaches” because it’s one of the more famous beaches and the one that a lot of people want to see (not sure why other than it’s “historical significance” in the 60s LA surf scene - and it shows up a lot on NCIS Los Angeles). Venice will probably take at least an hour…

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That it will! Never having been, I don’t really understand the appeal. I grew up going to Newport beach since it is my dad’s favorite & where he lived for some time as a teenager & visited frequently growing up in SoCal.

We found a lot to do (much already mentioned) but I have to add to the list something my sons really loved - La Brea Tar Pits [https://tarpits.org/visit] . I think a 14-year-old would find this park to be pretty amazing! Super visitors’ center with outside grounds to see stuff, too. And you’ve already been warned about traffic. Just be prepared for some uncertain travel times and use a traffic app. It was invaluable!

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Sorry, you said you didn’t want to rent a car. In that case, I’d stay at a Disneyland hotel or within walking distance of Disneyland. There are many decent hotels to choose from - we like the Fairfield Inn (Marriott hotel) on S. Harbor Blvd. because it’s remodeled, not expensive by Disneyland area standards, and literally right across the street from the entrance to Disneyland. So nice to walk back to our room mid-day, easy-peasy. The pool is an oversized bathtub, though. The Courtyard next door is more expensive but has an awesome pool. You can then just use Lyft/Uber to get to L.A. sights, if you like. We had flown in to SNA (John Wayne Airport) so the Lyft ride to our hotel wasn’t bad at all.

My son wants to go to Hollywood to see fancy cars, which you don’t see to many of in Massachusetts.
We will probably have to rent a car. We will probably go to universal and probably Knott’ s Berry Farms

We will get a different hotel.

If he wants to see fancy cars, I suggest Rodeo Drive.

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First things first, renting a car is vital to see most of LA, or even soCal. Our public transportation out here is pitiful, and much is sketchy unless you really know the area and are prepared for the, well, strange sights you might see!!

Okay, some LA “points of interest”.

Fancy Cars/Shopping

Rodeo Drive, HOWEVER, Canon Dr just east is where the locals actually hang out. Rodeo is really for tourists and celebrities trying to be seen.

Melrose Ave is where most “la people” go to shop and hang out, just south of Santa Monica Blvd.

The Grove in LA is where the original LA farmers market is. There’s always an impressive array of fancy cars in the valet circle outside just by Nordstrom’s. Also right next to CBS Studios where they film: Dancing With the Stars, Family Fued, James Corden, Price is Right, and many daytime soap operas. (For tickets to any tapings, look up OnCamera Audiences. However be advised most taping take 6-8 HOURS)

There’s also the newly remodeled Century City outdoor mall, closer to the 405. Lots of fancy cars there too! (Also off Santa Monica Blvd, not too far from Rodeo)

Downtown La:

The Last Bookstore (my favorite attraction in dtla!!). An amazing collection of artists and books! Lots of fun photo ops.

Skyspace: it’s an outdoor slide on the US bank building. Not sure of the cost these days, but kind of a crazy cool thing to see!

Venice Beach: just have to see it to believe it.

If you want to visit a beach in La, skip the Santa Monica Pier and go north up the PCH to topanga state beach. It’s a magical little spot with a winery across the street.

Another place to see fancy cars is Calabasas. There’s an outdoor town center, often you can see celebrities at Marmalade Cafe there for a late lunch. (We’ve seen paparazzi, but I never know who anyone really is, and I’m jaded and just don’t care!)

There also the Dolby theatre where the Oscars are held, which is also a huge shopping complex.

There’s so much to see and do, it really depends on your desires and how much you’re willing to sit in traffic. Because LA traffic is a whole other topic that gets me riled up! :joy: